9 Dos and 9 Don’ts of Thrift Clothes Shopping For Beginners

Last Updated on by Bree

9 Dos and 9 Don'ts of Thrift Clothes Shopping For Beginners

Thrift shopping is a great way to find treasures for less.

As a beginner thrift shopper, it’s easy to get carried away by the excitement of discovering lovely things for cheap.

And that’s why this post will be helpful to you.

This post will show you the dos and don’ts of thrift shopping for beginners.

So you can update your wardrobe with secondhand fashion and no regrets.

Let’s dive in.

The dos of thrift clothes shopping:

1. Do some research before you start thrift clothes shopping

Before visiting the thrift stores, do your research.

Find out which thrift stores are known for quality items and fair prices in your area.

Twice is Nice(a charity thrift store) is known in my area for its fair prices and excellent quality.

However, some thrift stores in the Downtown mall are known for high-end secondhand fashion items.

So, depending on what you’re looking for, do your research and prepare yourself.

You don’t want to end up in a thrift store and can’t afford anything.

Or believe the clothes are low quality because the prices are fair.

Also, consider online platforms like Poshmark, Mercari, Depop and consignment stores like Thredup to broaden your options.

That’s what I do.

2. Have a clear goal when shopping for clothes at the thrift store

I love going to thrift stores.

But it’s easy to get carried away and be overwhelmed with variety.

You see many things you love and wish you could have them all.

But that is not sustainable.

That’s why you must know what you want from the store.

Are you looking for basics, work clothes, or vintage coats?

Knowing what you want will help you stay focused and not be overwhelmed by variety.

So, if you can, make a list and head to that aisle when you arrive at the store.

Pick what you need, pay, and leave.

3. Inspect thrift store clothes for quality

Woman inspecting a top at the thirft store

Another thing you must do when you shop at thrift stores is to check for quality.

I once bought some clothes from the thrift store in my area, only to discover holes in one when I got home.

So check for stains and signs of wear like tears, pilling or fading, missing buttons, or ruined zippers.

You will find quality items at secondhand stores, but you must inspect items thoroughly before paying for them.

Also, some thrift stores don’t offer returns, so you don’t want to be stuck with clothes you can wear.

4. Explore different sections of the store

I noticed that some seasoned thrifters are not afraid to add fashion items outside their style.

They’d shop from the men’s, women’s, or even junior’s racks.

Speaking of which, I’ve shopped a couple of times from the junior’s rack.

But that was at Burlington.

So don’t be scared to look through the men’s or junior’s rack for unique finds.

You might find a nice plain white button-down shirt in the men’s section to use as a shirt dress.

So explore and find treasures.

5. Make sure to try your thrift clothes before buying them

woman trying a coat in a thrift store

For hygiene reasons, some prefer not to try secondhand clothes at the store.

But if you want to get the best from your thrift clothes shopping, especially as a beginner, try them on.

Thrift stores have dressing rooms with mirrors.

So you can try on clothes and see how they fit before paying for them.

Because no matter what, sizes can vary in thrift stores.

Also, sizing varies with the year the clothes were designed.

And, like I said before, some thrift stores don’t do returns.

So take advantage of the fitting rooms to avoid disappointment.

6. Have a budget and stick to it

Thrifting can be interesting, but don’t get carried away and overspend.

So, decide how much you want to spend before going and stick to your budget.

Sometimes, when I shop at Burlington, I pull out my calculator and add the cost of everything in my cart.

And if it’s over budget, I drop some things.

I also do the same with my Thredup shopping.

I remove things once it’s over the amount I planned to spend.

It isn’t delightful to do that because we always want everything.

But spending what you planned and holding yourself accountable is crucial.

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7. Haggle prices, you might get lucky

Some thrift stores, especially consignment shops, are open to negotiation.

If you see an item you like but the price is a bit high, politely ask if it can come down.

The worst they’d say is no!

But for online selling platforms like Poshmark or Merrcari, haggling is part of the buying and selling process.

So feel free to ask for or offer a slightly lower price.

But don’t low-ball.

Because the seller might ignore you or even go as far as blocking you. Lol.

8. Consider other shoppers

Sometimes, thrifting can be competitive.

Even with online thrifting, buyers try to get what’s in other shoppers’ carts.

On Thredup, you can ask to be notified when an item is out of another buyer’s cart.

So you see, there’s competition even in online thrift shopping marketplaces.

But in a physical thrift store, there’s no need to be rude or pushy.

Someone might pick something you were about to pick.

Don’t go snatching it out of their hand.

Be respectful and consider other shoppers.

And let everyone have a chance to get good stuff.

9. Try online thrift clothes shopping

person thrift shopping on a laptop

Shopping in a physical thrift store can be time-consuming and overwhelming.

Because you’ll walk through the store, check the racks, and maybe compete with other buyers for nice stuff.

So, if a physical thrift shop isn’t for you, consider shopping from online thrift stores like Thredup.com, Swap.com, etc.

These online thrift stores have pictures of the clothes, with sizes and descriptions.

But the only downside of online thrift stores is that you can only try the clothes after receiving them.

So, satisfaction might not be 100%.

But I’ve had both good and not-so-good experiences.

Still, it’s worth the try.

The don’ts of secondhand clothes shopping for newbies:

1. Don’t overlook the care label

care label

One major problem with Thredup is that they don’t mention anything about the care label.

They hardly mention if the clothes are handwash or dryclean only.

And as someone who doesn’t care about drycleaning, I don’t buy clothes that need only drycleaning.

So, don’t overlook the care instructions label when shopping at the thrift store.

If you don’t like dry cleaning, drop that clothing.

Also, if you have no time for handwashing, maybe don’t buy that shirt.

I once handwashed a dry-clean-only pant, and they shrunk and were unwearable.

Don’t be like me.

Read labels for washing and care tips to prevent accidental damage.

2. Don’t settle for a poor-fit item

When you see something you like at the thrift store that doesn’t fit, please leave it.

You might think, “Oh, I can alter it here and there, and it will fit.”

But you might never have the time to do that.

Once, I bought a size small dress, thinking I’d shrink into it someday.

And after losing weight and growing muscles, the dress still won’t fit.


I’m still a size medium, even with muscles and less body fat.

So be realistic about alterations and prioritize items that fit and flatter your current body.

And stop holding your money down in clothes you might never wear.

3. Don’t ignore signs of damage

a coat with ruined zippers

Another don’ts of thrift shopping is ignoring signs of damage.

No matter how much you like that coat or pants, please don’t buy it if it’s damaged.

If it’s simple things like button replacement – the only repair I’ll do on secondhand clothing – then buy it.

But if it has a worn zipper, torn pockets, or heavy pilling, it’s best to leave it.

I noticed some people buy damaged name-brand items because they want designer clothing.

But what’s the point of buying said designer item if you can’t use it?

Again, please don’t waste your money on damaged goods and regret it later.

4. Don’t spend more than you planned

Secondhand shopping is sweet.

You can see all these lovely clothes for a fraction of the retail price.

It’s easy to overspend.

But don’t you ignore your budget?

Plan how much you want to spend before heading to the store.

Get your calculator out to add items to your cart.

Once you get to the amount you planned, stop shopping.

And returns excesses to the rack.

Avoid impulsive spending.

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5. Don’t forget to check thrift store return policies

Most thrift stores have strict return policies.

Thredup, for example, charges a restocking fee.

And you must return the clothes in the exact condition they were purchased.

So, if you’ve washed the clothes and removed labels, you’re not getting a refund.

Also, some stores only offer exchanges or store credit within a specific time frame.

Make sure you know these terms before shopping there.

6. Don’t ignore odors

The good thing about shopping in a physical thrift store is that you can feel and smell the clothes.

And you can decide if you want it or not.

I once bought a sweater on Thredup that was covered in pet fur.

If I had seen the sweater in a physical store, I wouldn’t have bought it.

So know that some secondhand clothes might even have smoke, pets, or storage smells.

You might think you can remove odors with a simple wash.

But some odors might be hard to get rid of.

So if it has a smell you can’t stand, leave it.

7. Don’t forget to wash your clothes

Most thrift store clothes haven’t been washed since they were donated.

Before you wear your new finds, wash them thoroughly to remove dust, dirt, and storage scents.

That is if you’re sure you won’t be returning them.

8. Don’t overlook accessories

One of my favorite accessories to buy from thrift stores is scarves.

Other quality accessories you can find at thrift stores are hats, belts, and bags.

Recently, I bought some name-brand silk scarves from Poshmark.

They were beautiful and in excellent condition.

Brand-new silk scarves can be expensive.

So, the thrift store is an excellent place to snag a couple to add to your wardrobe.

9. Lastly, don’t shop at the thrift store when you’re in a hurry

person looking through the racks in thrift store

The thrift store isn’t a place you rush in and out of.

Thrifting for unique finds takes time and patience.

Because you’ll go through all the racks in your shopping section.

But if you’re rushing through the racks, you won’t find nice stuff.

Which can be frustrating.

Wrapping up the dos and don’ts of thrift clothes shopping for newbies

In conclusion, secondhand clothes shopping is fun and pocket-friendly.

By sticking to the dos and avoiding mistakes, you’ll get the hang of it.

And soon, you’ll be a pro at finding treasures at the thrift store.

If you find this post helpful, please share it.

What are your dos and don’ts of thrift clothes shopping?

Please share them in the comments.

Happy thrifting!

Thanks for reading.

See you in the next one.

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